Have Fun…

Remember your mom calling after you as you went out to play: ‘Have fun…’ ?

It’s a bit hard to recall just how that works. How does one have fun when the bills pile high, the workload grows, sad things creep in? I have a life friend and whenever we’re together the hysterical happens. Laughter makes our stomachs hurt. Perhaps it is in the comfort of another who does not judge, but loves, that we able to release our grown-upness and just live.

Yes, Jesus said in this life we will have trouble – but He also gave us jumping fish, silly monkeys, and bouncing goats. He gave us toddler antics, burps and body noises, and hair that sticks up in the mornings. ‘Just live’ He says to us – enjoy all that makes a smile and savor it. “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4 NIV)

Maybe the fact that I have an almost two year old in my life is causing this pondering about fun. Turning round and round til your dizzy is a favorite right now. Makes me think what fun life was for Adam and Eve before the fall. No worries about looks, lists – no unmet longings. And daily walks with God the Creator of the joy all around.

A pureness you and I have never known – but just wait. It is coming. Oh you are His beloved and what He has in store forever is more fun than we can dream.

“And my God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19 NIV) For now, some trials, for always He meets our needs. So live!

Dare to live like a child. Learn all over how to jump. Stick your nose right into a flower. Delight. “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:4 NIV) Turns out those desires aren’t the selfishness of wants, the simplicity of needs – but the very longing only He can fill. When we are filled with Him, tapping toes and dancing feet are not so strange.

Holley Gerth in her devotional ‘Hope Your Heart Needs’ reminds us: “In the beginning God created… Genesis 1:1 Every small wonder in our lives is evidence He still does…”   So, have fun!

How Many Oranges?

I live in citrus land. Did you know from the time you plant a little orange tree until it produces the first couple of oranges is at least three to four years?

A sweet lady recently told me she moved here thirty-six years ago. She never thought she would be here more than a couple years. She recalled wanting to plant an orange tree or two when they arrived but didn’t think it would have enough time to bear fruit before she moved on. She never got that tree planted. She asked “How many oranges could I have picked by now?”

It made me think how much we are like that. Is it that we lack faith to think things will turn out like we want? That we don’t want to start and not finish? What holds us back from small orange tree dreams and even those bigger?

“So do not worry, saying ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ “ (Matthew 6:31 NIV)  Or ‘Should I plant an orange tree?’.

Just think of all the little things we worry or fret over. Which shirt, what purse? Which restaurant, what time? Not to mention the bigger things – move across country, go on a missions trip, sell a house? I love that just a couple verses later Jesus says: “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:34 NIV)

But why does He tell us not to worry? Because He has given us promise upon promise. Long before Jesus walked the earth – even as He set stars in place and breathed life into those first lungs – His promises were for sure and for always.

I like to think I keep my promises. To be a good friend, wife, mother. To get my work done. To help someone in their time of need. Truth is we all fall short on our promises at one time or another. But it’s not that way with our Promiser – “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful.” (Hebrews 10:23 NIV)

We have to ask ourselves how much time have we wasted with our worrying – how many oranges could we have picked? (Souls touched, love given, friendships forged – if only we had planted the tree.)


There’s a lot of voices shouting these days. If you’re loud enough, does that mean you win?

Reminds me why I love early morning. When dusty sky sparkles with a few last diamonds and all is quiet – everything seems brand new. Each soft dawn is a call to find His quiet voice. A chance for our soul to breathe a little peace – to stare in wonder as everything turns to pink and orange and a new day begins.

Wonder – it’s lost on us these days. Everything is ho-hum unless it’s sensational. A loud protest, a terror attack, another scandal – are these what amaze us now? “Light is sweet; how pleasant to see a new day dawning.” (Ecclesiastes 11:7 NLT)

This world wants to silence what is good – what truly amazes. The voices say God is non-existent, have your higher power but don’t tell us there is a Creator. Yet we spin through this universe with new dawns, rolling tides, and seasons delighting us in ways we forget to be delighted.

Oh yes, this world and the enemy of God wants to silence anything and anyone who would point to a creative God. One who made the tiniest celled life to the greatest wonders. And yet the very quiet of a bunny scooting to the trees and a fish skittering through the pond shout His love.

“It is wonderful each morning to tell about your love and at night to announce how faithful you are.” (Psalm 92:2 CEV)

Here’s the deal – someday the deceitfulness of man and the deceiver who chases us will be silenced – forever. But there will be a loud trumpet call and the one called Truth will touch us with eternity. Just when we think we are being silenced, not heard, making no difference – we will be noisier than ever.

For on that day we will be dancing, shouting praise, singing joyfully, calling to one another ‘I knew it, God has made a way! Jesus has returned, His Spirit in us has led us safely home!’ Now that’s a noisy new day I can’t wait for.

“It will happen suddenly, quicker than the blink of an eye. At the sound of the last trumpet the dead will be raised. We will all be changed, so we will never die again.” (1Corinthians 15:52 CEV)

Enemy Approaching…

We are obsessed – with electronic communication.

Be it social media, text, email – all is a blinking prompt and words sent in seconds – that can’t be taken back. Even the best of writers are often misinterpreted, let alone the text that comes across as angry, the email that seems to accuse, and the social post that embarrasses.

But one thing it’s truly good for? Stirring up anger, division, hate – and a whole lot of hurt. Ooh, the enemy is rubbing his hands together. “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud…” (2Timothy 3:1-2a)

But let’s say we choose our words with caution and we aren’t leaving a trail of electronic bitterness. Where are our eyes? Still on the screen. Children beg for mom’s/dad’s attention, spouses long for real conversation, friends lose closeness – all for the sake of not missing anything flashing away in cyber land.

So how can we conquer the slave master of our day and once again be people who look into each other’s eyes? Jesus said where our treasure is, there our heart is also. How easily distracted we can be. So God reminds us:

“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” (Proverbs 4:23 NIV)

Satan is sly, clever, a true deceiver. What better way than the anonymity of a sleek phone. How many relationships destroyed by pornography and the privacy of our own little screen? How much discontent sewn by seemingly innocent posts about the perfect wedding, best decorated baby room, most creative dessert?

A song for children has these lines in it: ‘be careful little eyes what you see; be careful little ears what you hear; be careful little tongue what you say’. Why? Because these are gateways that can lead to great fulfillment or great sorrow. So be careful, the enemy is approaching and wants us to follow the crowd he’s gathering.

“Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1Peter 5:8 NIV)

The List…

I make lists. And I love crossing them off.

Each little ‘to do’ that’s done somehow is satisfying. But recently in another great book by Max Lucado, Unshakable Hope, I read this at the end: “In the first chapter I told you that the promises of this book are some of my favorites. Now that I’ve shared my list, I urge you to create your own.”

That’s a challenge we should embrace. The real challenge will be identifying favorites. If we found all the promises in the Bible and wrote them down we would have a very long list. But what about some that speak right to our hearts, written as though they were just for us?

I’m thinking that as we find them, we personalize them. Like this: “His divine power has given Paris everything she needs for life and godliness through her knowledge of Him who called her” (2Peter 1:3a NIV) Your turn, put your name in there, for He has given you everything you need as well.

This is fun, you first: “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard (insert your name) heart and (insert your name) mind in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7 NIV)

The thing about this list is we don’t cross them off, we hold them and read them til that someday we see the Promise Maker face to face.

As we find these treasures, make our lists, and read them again and again they become part of us. There when we need them most. When doubt creeps in, or we utterly fail along the way, or we reach out to a hurting soul – sure words that don’t let us down and will help us through.

It seems to me that weariness is overtaking just about everyone around the world these days – oh so tired of the way of things. The brokenness of our fallen world piling so high some can no longer find hope. But that doesn’t mean Hope has deserted us. For Jesus will never leave us or forsake us – and He is coming back.

Which reminds me of this promise – it’s for you and for me: “and Paris and (your name) will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2Peter 1:11 NIV)

Running Away…

There’s an unrest in my soul these days. Haven’t pinpointed it yet – but experience tells me it’s preparation. A feeling – things don’t stay the same, no matter how much I hate change.

I know because more than once a day I want to run away – to the wild and quiet Tennessee mountains or even a small town somewhere that nobody knows me. But I stay, firmly planted, knowing that running never makes it all better.

So where is faith in all this. That’s when I most know faith is His gift – and His faithfulness holds me steady. Whispering faith through words on His pages or songs sung by those who know Him or in creation reminders. “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful.” (Hebrews 10:23 NIV)

So much meaning in that dear word ‘faithful’. It’s a timeless promise and intertwined throughout the Bible. When our legs are most shaky or doubts surround He calls to us – just like He called to Joshua so long ago. First He said “Be strong and courageous…” (Deuteronomy 31:7a NIV)

How? When hurricanes wash away any normalcy, when politics continues its corruption, when hurt stabs deep, when the unjust of it all mounts up. How? “The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you” (Deuteronomy 31:8a NIV)

Be with us – oh yes, always with us. With us when running away seems to be so tempting – but another step of faith leads us on. One more step with Him until they lead right up to a lifetime of walking His brave and His courage.

Still doubt? Still wonder? “He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” (Deuteronomy 31:8b NIV) A promise we can plant deep in our hearts and it will grow. A promise that reminds life is hard, but His love is sure. A promise that ends with a forever of no more doubts and no more running away.

So for now let’s walk day by day holding tightly to our Hope. And when that inevitable change rocks our world for better or worse – we’ll know we’re not alone. At the end of his life, Joshua, who faced what seemed insurmountable obstacles, declared: “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15 NIV)

What’s Fair?

All guilty of saying: ‘that’s not fair’, raise your hand.

Seems like we start with that in our preschool years and keep on indefinitely. And often things aren’t fair. But how do we measure misdeeds to determine what is fair? Laws, politics, rules, ethics, morality, tradition? And what does Jesus say to ‘fair’?

“When they hurled their insults at Him, He did not retaliate; when He suffered, He made no threats. Instead, He entrusted Himself to Him who judges justly.” (1Peter 2:23 NIV)

Ouch – that stings when I think of my actions in the face of unjust treatment. You? Even if I may not insult back I still want to make my case about the accusation, treatment, abuse, lie, threat, etc. So what does it look like to entrust ourselves to God?

Perhaps a lifelong pursuit – of triumphs and failures as we learn not to repay or make our case, but to let God’s wisdom and providence make things better than we ever could.

There’s an account of two women who gave birth and one of the women’s babies died. The grieving mother traded her dead child in the middle of the night for the other infant. The other mother realized what had happened. Upon taking their case to the king, he said ‘take a sword and divide the child and give each mother half’ – the real mother cried out ‘please, no give her the baby’ – and the thief said ‘go ahead’. The king knew who the baby belonged to. (2Kings 3:16-28)

Only God has the wisdom to see the big picture, knows what is very best for us, will right all wrongs – if not today, then in eternity. And that’s where trust comes in.

Do we trust God? Is the God we say we trust the One True God? Has He always been and will He always be? These are hard to wrap our heads around – that’s where faith comes in. Even faith is a gift from Him – there’s nothing He requires of us on our own. Why? Because He knows our weaknesses and He provides all we need – even our faith. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not of yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV)

Now that’s fair!


Want to make a difference?

To who, for who – what difference? We’re conditioned that life is all about making our mark, being remembered. That’s a lot of pressure. Remembered how long, and for what? More questions than answers when the questions are all about self.

What if the difference we could make wasn’t about anything we can do? What if the mark made didn’t have anything to do with our abilities? And what if it wasn’t us who was remembered? The pressure is no longer there. This is our true calling: The difference we can make in this life is making Jesus known. The mark left behind is that of a soul changed for eternity. And the One remembered is God.

I fail at this. I struggle with too much self. Do you? So while I have the answer – I don’t always live it. You and me, we are on a journey. The forks in the road we’ll face will lead to shining our light or holding out the true Light.

“Don’t let the world make you conform to its way of thinking when you can be transformed to God’s.” (Stormie Omartian) That is the beginning of a journey that leaves a legacy, but not ours, God’s. His legacy transcends time because it leads right into forever.

“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Romans 12:2a NIV)

Notice God’s words: ‘any longer’. He knows us so well, He knows where we are right now, but He also knows where we could be. The pattern of this world will weigh us with anxiety, the renewing He can do in our minds will set us free. “Now the Lord is Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” (2Corinthians 3:17 NIV)

Free – to live without the burden of making our mark on the world. He will work through us if we ask. How? “All of us, then, reflect the glory of the Lord with uncovered faces; and that same glory, coming from the Lord, who is the Spirit, transforms us into His likeness in an ever greater degree of glory.” (2Corinthians 3:18 GNT)

Where are your keys?

Sometimes I find my keys in my hand when I’m tearing through my purse or the house for the tenth time.

We’re such a busy society that what is plainly in our hands is often missed. A good reminder of how oblivious we are to the oh so quick passing of time – and how we often miss the important. The important – what is it? It’s knowing the Jesus who holds the keys to life and death – and it’s also about the little things: tiny toes, windy walks, friend lunches, hand holding.

Must be a way to make days less about beating the traffic and making the dollar – and more about the Key Holder and moments held in hearts. “Take hold of My instructions; don’t let them go. Guard them, for they are the key to life.” (Proverbs 4:13 NLT)

Yay, there are instructions. All in one Book – and in our hearts if His Spirit resides there. And so many of them are about loving others – which takes us back to slowing down. One more hug, one more stroll, one more ice tea topped with laughter.

We’re heading into autumn – a changing of seasons signaling growth slowing down. Life has seasons as well and sometimes the autumn of life trumpets to our hearts: ‘slow down, you’re missing so much.’ Hearts may feel it, but souls have to live it. The faithfulness of God shows us the way: He’s never too busy for us – can’t wrap our head around His ever constant presence, but that doesn’t diminish it any.

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1 NIV)

God not only holds the key to life, but also to death. But death will not always be. For now, it comes to those on earth – for some an instant passage into the presence of Jesus. For some a fearsome journey of utter darkness. But now isn’t always – and someday, for God’s children, death is done away with. There will be no more separation of loved ones – no more languishing in hospitals, no more dread.

“I am the living one. I died, but look–I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and the grave.” (Revelation 1:18 NLT) Time for us to slow down and love others into His forever.

Hope Challenge…

Lots of things are contagious – mostly stuff we don’t want to catch. Like the flu or the common cold.

My husband used to have a poster in his office that said ‘Attitudes are Contagious – Is Yours Worth Catching?’ I think the same can be said of Hope. For the last five weeks I’ve pondered and written about that four letter word and what it really is. I’ve gone to the most reliable source (the Bible) and I’ve tried to get a whole lot more of h-o-p-e down in my soul.

Are you a little short on supply? “Teach those who are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which is so unreliable. Their trust should be in God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment.” (1Timothy 6:17 NLT)

Ours for the asking – and the sharing. Need a little peace, ask the Giver. Need rest, find it in your Shelter. Need h-o-p-e, find it in the only Source.

We forget, that though we may feel empty, inept, unable, wandering, weak – God doesn’t, isn’t. He richly supplies us – because His storehouse of all we need never runs out. With that truth in mind I think He’s calling us not to gather only what we need, but to let the abundance flow out of us. Because, let’s face it, we’re not the only ones who need refueling. A world is dying without hope – and we have the answer to the emptiness.

“May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else…May He strengthen your hearts” (1Thessalonians 3:12a, 13a NIV)

Even loving others is something we need Jesus for. He makes our love overflow. Jesus proved that the more of Himself He gave away, the more the good news reached souls. Care to give a little hope away today? The work God will do in our hearts as we expand them to give away our endless Resource, will far outweigh the effort.

It’s a Hope Challenge. To take it means we have to be sold out mind, body, and soul that eternity is ours – and then we have to make it known. “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (1Peter 3:15 NIV)



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Mandy Hughes



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